Small Business Advice
Do you ever find yourself spending precious time trying to quickly find something in your office – only to realize that your out of it and need to order it…and it’s 3:00 am…and you need whatever it is for a 9:00 am deadline the next day?
That’s happened to me – more than once. After repeatedly making the same mistake, I finally figured out a system that, to date, has worked well for my company. The foundation of the system is four parts: What I have now, what I need, what I can fix and what I can throw out! Let me show you how it works:
Let’s Start with Technology – Upgrade outdated technology. Whether it’s your operating system or your hardware (desktop, laptop or mobile device), the right technology is critical to ensuring maximum efficiency, security and mobility for your business.
Move your business to the cloud. There are cloud solutions for nearly every business activity, from keeping track of expenses to storing files to accounting and CRM solutions. Investing in cloud services not only saves you time and money, but is an organizational boon as well. There are cloud tools for calendars, project management systems and to-do lists. Less paper equals less clutter, which makes you more productive and efficient.
Build a More Organized Mousetrap – I’ve read countless books and articles over the years on time management, improving organizational skills and increasing productivity. Many experts recommend creating processes to help you do all of the above. Consider this popular business maxim: Touch items once and take action on them. There are numerous ways you can apply this concept to improve your organizational behavior. Think about your email. Don’t you wish there were methods to get (and keep) it under control? There are! When dealing with email, there are three basic—and immediate actions you can take: Reply to it, delete it or, if it’s not a top priority, put it in a folder to review later.
In my business, I have four main folders for emails—and my to-do lists. They are:
- Urgent: The items that need action—yesterday! I rank the items on this list by the amount of time each one will take. Then I start with the most time-consuming items in the morning, when I have the most energy, and save the shorter urgent items until the afternoon. The only exception is when an item has a higher sense of urgency…then I will handle that one first.
- Important: These items need action today, but aren’t urgent—yet. Once I finish the urgent list, I tackle my “important items” list.
- Everyday: I don’t even think about these items until I’ve dealt with the urgent and important matters.
- Non-Essential: Like my Everyday list, these items should not be considered until everything else is completed. Even better, delegate these items to an assistant, someone else at your company or an intern. Let them focus on getting the everyday and non-essential items done for you, and free up valuable time to tackle the urgent and important tasks.
When business gets chaotic or stressful, business owners sometimes gravitate towards the everyday and non-essential lists. It makes them feel as if they are being productive, when in fact all they’re doing is busy work.
Go Paperless – If you’re drowning in paper (old files, magazines or articles you intend to read one day, or lists of your passwords) toss them. You can scan what you need into your computer, look up the articles online and save them in a cloud app, such as Pocket or Evernote and find a program to store your passwords.
A paperless workspace reduces clutter and makes important papers easier to find. Cloud-based file storage solutions such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Apple’s iCloud are affordable options for small businesses to maintain and organize critical business documents throughout the year.
This is also a good time to literally clean your computers and other devices. You can try this yourself or take your computer in for a checkup. But first, back up your important files to the cloud. Your hardware and peripherals are likely much dirtier than you think. Take time to clean your keyboards (use compressed air), monitor screens and check the batteries in your mouse or wireless keyboards. Chances are your computer is riddled with viruses and malware you don’t even know are on there.
Check your printer as well. Do all the parts move smoothly? Are you up-to-date on manufacturers’ updates? Is the printer free of paper bits? Make sure you have extra cartridges on hand, so you’re never caught short without ink.
Get It Done – Organizing your business takes time and effort on your part. In the end, cleaning up and getting organized will save you time, money and enable you to be more productive. Your efforts now will provide a great return on time invested (ROTI) next year.